Immigrant Picture Book Project


For Us by Us: Children’s Picture Books to  Promote Solidarity and Acceptance in the Age of Refugees


This project  (2017-2019) will involve refugee communities in several sites (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Montreal, Quebec,  and Coventry, England) with a focus on children between the ages of 8 and 18 (n = 10-20 at each site) and adult collaborators (n = 5 at each site), in the creation of picture books, “for children by children.”  Each site may carry out the project in slightly different ways, depending on context, but the idea is that children, either in small groups or individually, will create a picture book. While important scholarly initiatives have already examined the benefits of reading picture books to the development of language skills, empathy, and critical thinking, our proposed project will be the first of its kind to examine the role that the creation of these artistic and literacy materials by refugee children themselves plays in the culture of tolerance and acceptance. There is growing recognition that children are capable social agents who have the capacity to make valuable contributions to deepening an understanding issues of concern in their lives. However, there is a paucity of research examining the experiences and creative capacities of refugee children, information which is urgently needed for understanding their social integration and supporting their mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Adjusting to a new home can be very difficult for refugees, and in the current socio-cultural and political environments, refugees can be targets for violence, racism, scapegoating, and other less overt forms of discrimination. Forcibly displaced peoples are also at risk for losing important connections to their cultural, linguistic, and artistic heritage. We will work directly with community organizations that support a diverse patronage including refugee children and their families. This study aims to support the making of picture books by refugee children that capture and preserve their perspectives and knowledge.


Team: April Mandrona, Michaelina Jakala, Ej Milne, Claudia Mitchell, Maria Ezcurra

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada


[read “Immigrant picture book project gets federal funding,” John McPhee, The Chronicle Herald, November 15, 2017]







Claudia Mitchell’s awards


Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Fellow

Member of the Royal Society of Canada

Winner of the 2016 SSHRC Gold Medal

Honorary doctorate from Mid Sweden University






Upcoming Events

Esther Armaignac

Esther Armaignac is a first year Ph.D. student in Educational studies with the Graduate option in Gender and Women’s Studies. After obtaining her Bachelor’s Degree in Communications Studies with a minor in French literature from the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris III in France, she moved to Montréal and completed a Master’s Degree, also in Communication Studies. 

Her main research interests are gender studies, popular culture, fictional narratives and creative pedagogy. Her Ph.D research focuses on the power of fictional narrative and how they can be used as pedagogical tools in order to raise awareness about gender issues. She would like to encourage students to think critically toward fictional narratives from popular culture and to create their own fiction to explore gender and feminist stereotypes, norms, etc. Her goal is to develop workshops to encourage students and teachers to use more fictional narratives in classrooms, especially among teenagers and young adults.

Esther is also interested in the movement #metoo and in autobiographical narratives. She would like to experiment the use of creative practices and fictional narratives in order to relate traumatic events connected to gender discrimination, sexual harassment and violence.”

Esther’s CV


Stephanie Ho

Originally coming from Vancouver, B.C., Stephanie Ho has been a proud Montrealer for nearly four years.  While completing her B.A. in English Literature at The University of British Columbia, Stephanie embarked on a one-semester university exchange to Sciences-Po in Paris.  This immersion into French culture, particularly within the domains of gastronomy and art history prompted Stephanie’s subsequent return to France. At this time, Stephanie worked for three years as an English teaching assistant in the small village of Nyons, in the South of France.  Eventually, Stephanie moved back to Canada, this time settling in Montreal, where she pursued an M.A. in Teaching and Learning with a speciality of English Language Arts, at McGill. Stephanie currently teaches at St. George’s School of Montreal as an ELA teacher and Community Learning Coordinator.  Her doctoral studies, under the supervision of Claudia Mitchell and Boyd White, pull from her loves of fine art and English, exploring the role Surrealist-based pedagogies could have in supplementing the arguably outdated and underfunded curriculum of Secondary ELA.










Catherine Vanner


Catherine Vanner is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University. Her research concentrates on the relationship between gender violence and education in Sub-Saharan Africa and in Canada. She has a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Ottawa and received the Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship and Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement to support her doctoral research.

Dr. Vanner’s postdoctoral research uses participatory qualitative methods to build understanding and guidance for teaching about gender violence in Canada at the secondary school level. Her doctoral dissertation analyzed the relationship between gender safety, gender violence and primary student learning processes in Kirinyaga County, Kenya, receiving the 2018 Michael Laferrière Doctoral Dissertation Award from the Comparative International Education Society of Canada. Her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals including International Journal of Educational Development, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, Journal of Peace Education and International Journal of Children’s Rights.

She has worked as an Education Advisor at Plan International Canada, as an Education Specialist at the Canadian International Development Agency (now Global Affairs Canada), and as an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa and Queen’s University. She has a M.A. in International Affairs from Carleton University and a B.A. (Honours) from McMaster University.

For more information, you can find her on, LinkedIn and Twitter at: and





So much to learn at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal

By Tonya Tagoona, IAYI/ICAD Intern

The month of January has been like no other. Many years, I have spent this time of the year in piles and piles of snow with -50 weather. Not this time. I am here in Durban, South Africa in the middle of summer with +30 weather as a Documentation and Research Assistant for the Networks for Change program with McGill University and University of KwaZulu-Natal has been of the best opportunities I have taken yet. The days are going by very quick, it has already been a month since arrival and from that I learned that I must make every day of every moment count. I am grateful for the members of the team, Felicia’s and I’s landlord (who is next door to us) and our roommate who is in the same apartment building as us. They are all awesome, wonderful and most importantly, supportive.

The members of the group gave presentations on teen pregnancy, substance abuse, HIV/AIDs and gender base violence to Felicia and I. The presentations opened my eyes and gave me a better understanding on ways I would have never thought of. Also, the supervisor Lisa, has shown Felicia and I projects that the Young Women’s Success Group from Winterton has worked on. The projects included cellphilms, digital stories and photo voice. I find that it is a creative way to spread the message(s) of issues within the villages. Luckily, two weeks later we met the Young Women’s Success group and when we arrived, I felt welcomed instantly. Meeting the girls was very brief but in the short time they were all smiling, hugging, shaking our hands and they have seemed very interested in who Felicia and I were and where we came from. Recently, Felicia and I have been taught by the members of the group how to do a photo voice. I found that interesting as we have to pick a topic, take pictures and write about a couple issues then write ways we could prevent it. Right now, we are working on our own digital stories (and I am almost done) and it is another fun activity to do because almost similar to photo voice we pick a topic realistic to the community, write a story, draw and read then later becomes a little video with yourself telling the story.

Elva, our landlord, every Sunday she has a gathering on her balcony. Last Sunday, we had a braai (BBQ). I enjoy these gatherings because it is a way to bring us together to get to know each other with stories that we all have to share. Last, Kaari, our roommate has driven Felicia and I all over! We have been to a couple beaches, restaurants, to the mall and he has even taken us grocery shopping. The act of kindness that has been given is unexplainable, I am grateful.

What I loved about interning with the Participatory Cultures Lab at McGill

By Felicia Tugak

November 8, 2016 – finally the day I’ve been waiting for since, like, forever! (December 2015). I was so stoked to prepare for the internship in Durban, South Africa.  At first, I was feeling shy about being part of the team. It’s normal especially if you don’t know anyone. But everyone in Montreal was so welcoming and our team (the Participatory Cultures Lab) was super supportive!

So, on the first week of my arrival, I was fortunate enough to come during the time Montreal was hosting the National Women’s Studies Association Conference. I was able to learn more about what some women were facing in some parts of Africa. Sadly, just before the week was over, I got sick.

Of course, our schedule was tight and well planned at McGill University, but there was so little time to do other workshops and activities.  Practically every part of our time in Montreal and everything that we did there from the work to meeting people, building teamwork by using workshops, activities, writing blogs and having meetings, was valuable…


My favorite part as an intern, was the celebration of A Space for Arts. I learned how other people used different ways to express their feelings. As we have many artists back home that use different ways of arts to express themselves but these were different from what I had seen from home. The university was approved to bring some arts to bring colour and interest to the campus which was bit dull before.

I believe that our team at the Participatory Cultures Lab learned more about our home when Tonya and I made a presentation about Nunavut. Nunavut is a young territory, so not everyone knows about our place. They had just learned about how we lived then and now. During our presentation, I noticed that everyone had been attentive to everything we had written up for our presentation and asked a lot of questions which we answered keenly.



Goodbye Montreal, hello Durban!

By Tonya Tagoona, IAYI Intern

On Friday, January 6, 2017 Felicia and I started our journey to Durban, South Africa. Our flight was in the 9:00 PM at the International Airport in Montreal and overnight we’ve flown to London, United Kingdom. We’ve made it to London, UK 6 in morning, their time. The layover was 10 hours long, which gave us a lot of time to pass through security, explore the terminal, and even took a 2 hour nap!


Ten hours later, our next stop was Cape Town, South Africa. The flight was 11 hours long! That was quite an experience as I have never been on a flight for that long before.

Finally, on Sunday, January 8, 2017 by early afternoon, Felicia and I have made it to our destination! Durban, South Africa, here we are! Lisa and Labo were at the airport to meet us. Also, they have bought us a few items of groceries to last us a couple days; how nice of them! As exhausted I was from the long journey from Canada to South Africa, I was very anxious to the see the wonderful city and the beautiful people. Lisa and Labo took Felicia and I to our hosts’ place. I am very pleased with our apartment! Perfect for two people. Later, Felicia and I had a naps until the next day from our long journey.


On Monday, Jan 9/17, Felicia and I had a relaxing day. We stayed at the apartment. On Tuesday, Lisa took us grocery shopping. Wednesday, it is our first in the office on Zwakulu-Natal! Lisa picked us up from the apartment and drove us to the office (how nice of her!) Also, we have met with the other interns that are apart of the project as well, and we were just getting to know about each other and where we come from. Later on that day, I had a dental appointment which is 5 minutes away from our apartment (yay!) Thursday, Lisa was discussing cellphilms, photo voice and digital stories to Felicia and I. Lisa shown us examples that her girls have worked on (amazing work!) Friday, today… we will be working on the schedule with Lisa and Labo and discuss what we will be doing over the next couple of months we are here. I am excited!


Winners Announced at the 4th International Cellphilm Festival

By Tonya Tagoona, IAYI Intern

On Friday, December 2, 2016, the 4th International Cellphilm Festival “Exploring Consent: Bodies, Lands, & Media” took place at the McGill Education Building in Montreal, Canada. Basically, a cellphilm is integrating mobile phone technology into participatory visual research and activism. At the festival, there were 11 videos shown and each video was between 60-90 seconds long. Our invited guest speakers at the Cellphilm Festival were Ying-Syuan Huang and Professor Lisa Starr. Ying-Syuan shared her experiences using cellphilms with pre-service science teachers at McGill. Professor Lisa Starr presented on the use of cellphilms in exploring and exposing gender inequity in Ethiopia. Although all 11 videos were great, there could be only 3 winners with a honourable mention. The honourable mention went to Can I Help You? by Kelly Loi and Jorge Antonio Vallejos. Are You Watching? A Cellphilm about Consent & Surveillance by Nick Sabo & Sarah Sabo came in third. The Day After by Nicole Boudreau & Marc Bragdon came in second and finally, the first place winner for the 4th International Cellphilm Festival went to Exploring Consent: Bodies, Lands & Media by Munira Sitotaw & Yohannus Gebru. Congratulations to the winners and thank you for those who came and joined the festival.

1st Place
Exploring Consent: Bodies, Lands & Media

2nd Place
The Day After

3rd Place
Are You Watching? A Cellphilm about Consent and Surveillance

Honourable Mention
Can I Help You?

Photos by Felicia Tugak, IAYI Intern